Currently, more and more people are competing in sporting events in their later years and many high performing athletes are still at the top of their game into their late 30s and even early 40s. Alejandro Valverde for example, finally won the World Professional Road Championships on arguably one of the most difficult circuits in recent years at 38 years of age. However, an ageing athlete who is in their 40s or 50s should not train like someone in their 20s. Below are five considerations to think about when training and racing when you are 40+.
A key method with an ageing athlete is to have less long breaks and be consistent with training. When in your 20s, the body can handle large loads of training which can be increased quickly compared to someone in their 40s. When in your 20s, if you took 2 weeks completely off, you could ramp into hard training and 6-8 weeks later you can be going really well again. However, if you did this rapid training method in your 40s+, it is likely that you would over train, pick up an injury, or become sick easily. The key is to have less time off so your overall fitness never drops too low and it is then easier to slowly and safely raise the training load.
Many older athletes do what comes naturally to them which is long endurance workouts at a hard pace and avoid that high intensity stuff like the young athletes do. However, this is the worst thing you can do as an ageing athlete. The old saying goes, ‘use it or lose it!’. A mature athlete must include intensity with sprints and HIIT (high intensity interval training). You don’t have to do heaps of it, but you need to do it to stimulate the body to adapt, improve and maintain.
Muscle loss is another consideration when ageing. Sadly, as we get older we lose muscle mass. Ways to counteract this is to include weight training all year long, not just in the off season. Weights two or three times a week in build up periods and once a week, in the competition period to maintain strength gains, is recommended by many people in the know (refer to below articles).
Another sad fact with age is loss of flexibility and mobility. Stretching and other forms of flexibility methods can become more important than another recovery ride. Sports massage can support this too and help reduce tight/sore muscles and potential injuries.
Rest and Recovery
This is really important. Even though I recommend less periods off, when training and racing, more rest days and easy riding is recommended. The body needs more time to recover and repair with age so regular easy recovery weeks and rest days are recommended.
I hope these five recommendations help you think how you can perform really well even though you are not in your 20s anymore. Being injury free, not overtrained and consistently fit and strong will ensure you’re going to enjoy your training and racing much more and help you stay that way for a long time.